Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Glenn Gould
LABELS: Drakes Avenue Pictures
ALBUM TITLE: A film by Michèle Hozer & Peter Raymont
PERFORMER: Interviews with Cornelia Foss, Roxolana Roslak, Ray Roberts, Petula Clark, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Lorne Tulk, John Roberts, Mark Kingwell etc
CATALOGUE NO: DAP 7793 (PAL system; stereo; 16:9 picture format)

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Glenn Gould’s public persona was that of a solitary, ascetic, visionary, eccentric, iconoclastic genius. This lovely film serves to humanise its subject while acknowledging that the iconic Gould remains both firmly entrenched and an endless source of fascination. 

Alternating between clips of Gould himself and interviews with others about him, it explores his childhood, training, and early career in Canada. Then follows the astonishing impact of his 1955 recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations, and his tumultuous concert career, including wildly successful Soviet appearances in 1957, and a 1962 performance of Brahms’s D minor Concerto with which conductor Leonard Bernstein publicly disagreed in advance. Following Gould’s retirement from the concert stage in 1964 came his forward-looking experiments with recording techniques and radio production, and ultimately his downward spiral into eccentricity and abuse of prescription drugs before his premature death at age 50. 

Among the many who discuss Gould perceptively here are Cornelia Foss (wife of composer Lukas Foss) and her children, who all left Foss to live with Gould in Toronto in 1968-72, his lifelong friend John Roberts, and those close to Gould in his retirement years (recording engineer Lorne Tulk, gofer Ray Roberts, and soprano Roxolana Roslak). A fellow student at the Toronto Conservatory of Music, Ruth Watson Henderson, demonstrates an instructional technique (‘tapping’) of Gould’s teacher Alberto Guerrero and suggests its role in the formation of Gould’s style.

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Altogether, this portrait reverently demythologises a man whose recordings and musical example remain provocative, inspiring and utterly unique. The bonus ‘extras’ recycle some film footage but add rewarding information. David Breckbill